As you may or may not have gathered from my posts by now, I’ve become a bit obsessed with happiness.

It hasn’t always been this way. In college, I was very focused on doing well in my classes, and simultaneously working, so as to be prepared for the future. For a long time, I worked hard to hit goals that I assumed would make my future happy and bright. I did well on tests and assignments, got good grades, landed an awesome internship, and graduated cum laude. After much searching, many applications, and working less than desirable jobs to pay the bills, I landed a parent/college/society approved “real” job, complete with steady pay, benefits, and PTO.

Other areas of my life, too, have reflected this dedication and drive to get where I need to be, and to do it well.  Maybe it’s just part of my personality, but this has always come relatively easy to me. That is, I have never made myself miserable working towards achievement and success. If I’m being entirely honest though, I don’t look back at these years and remember being truly happy either.

Over the past few months, however, I have felt myself changing. As a twenty-something who has met status quo, I’ve started to question, what’s next? I’m at a point where it feels like the options and opportunities are endless. I am able to decide on and create anything I want for my future. Therefore, I see and think and experience differently than I have before. I am becoming more in tune with myself, and what I want out of life.  Health, family, love, and financial stability are of course priorities, but happiness is at the top of my list.

When it comes to happiness . . . defining it, feeling it, living it . . . I have so many thoughts, so many questions! For one, what is happiness? What makes us happy? Is happiness observed and reflected upon, achieved, or discovered? Is happiness tangible, or simply a state of mind?

Of course, there are endless theories on happiness already.  The more I ponder happiness, the more prior notions on happiness buzz in my ears and resonate in my mind.

One idea that has resonated with me recently is that happiness is a state that we are born into. That is, humans are inherently happy, and to find happiness in our daily lives is to reduce all the mental clutter, notions of how the world works that are engrained in us as we grow up, and ideas of how things “should be.” When we get back to basics, so to speak, we can’t help but to be happy, because happiness is our most natural, pure state.

happiness quote
While I find this idea both fascinating and plausible, a second argument I’ve stumbled upon recently is that feeling alive is an infinitely more desirable goal than feeling happy. To feel alive is to feel all emotions: happy, amused, delighted, inspired, anxious, guilty, terrified, sorrowful, etc.  This concept of feeling alive is essential to our happiness because we cannot possibly feel happiness without knowing or feeling the contrast of sadness, sorrow, and grief. Perhaps, when it comes down to it, we need to feel alive to feel happy, and we need to feel happy to feel alive.

Ultimately, I believe the experience of feeling alive is to be present to each emotion, and likewise, the experience of happiness is to be not only present to, but also accepting and grateful of each emotion.  In our most natural, pure state, when we have reduced all mental clutter, we are only focused on the here and now.  The more time we can spend absorbed in the present, and the more gratitude we cultivate towards remaining in the moment and fully experiencing life and emotion, the more we feel alive, and ultimately, the happier we will be.

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